Given the recent European Court of Human Rights judgement about the controversial and widely abused Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 "stop and search" without "reasonable suspicion" legal powers, and, without any measurable positive effect on terrorism, we think that the Home Office and the Information Commissioner's Office are both very wrong in their decision to refuse our modest Freedom of Information Act request.
More comments on this Decision Notice soon, when we have some feedback from our expert friends.
Information Commissioner's Office
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Section 50)
Decision Notice Date: 8 February 2010
Public Authority: Address:
The Home Office
2 Marsham Street
The complainant requested copies of all Authorisations for the power to stop and search issued under the Terrorism Act 2000. During the investigation, the request was refined as being for certain information contained within those Authorisations.
The public authority refused to release any information citing the exemptions at section
23 (Information supplied by or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters), section
24 (National security) and section 31 (Law enforcement). The complainant did not contest any information withheld by virtue of section 23.
The Commissioner's decision is that the exemption at section 24(1) is engaged and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. He finds that this exemption applies to all the remaining information sought by the complainant so the exemption at section 31 has not been further considered.
The Commissioner has also identified procedural breaches which are outlined in the Notice below. The complaint is therefore partly upheld.
59. As cited in paragraph 34 above, "... 'national security' means the security of the United Kingdom and its people". The Commissioner is of the opinion that releasing the requested information would cause specific and real threats to national security. He believes that the information could be used by terrorists to support and influence their activity. He therefore believes that any advantages gained by further informing the public would be significantly outweighed by the factors for protecting the public by maintaining the exemption. The complaint is therefore not upheld.
60. As the Commissioner finds that all of the remaining requested information (to
which section 23 does not apply) is exempt by virtue of section 24(1) he has not gone on to consider the exemption at section 31(1 )(a), (b) and (c).
66. The Commissioner's decision is that the public authority dealt with the following elements of the request in accordance with the requirements of the Act:
- the requested information was properly withheld under the exemption at section 24(1) of the Act.
67. However, the Commissioner has also decided that the following elements of the request were not dealt with in accordance with the Act:
- in failing to provide a response compliant with section 1(1 )(a) within 20 working days of receipt of the request, the public authority breached section 10(1);
- in exceeding the statutory time limit for providing a response the public authority breached section 17(1).
68. The Commissioner requires no steps to be taken.
69. Although they do not form part of this Decision Notice the Commissioner wishes to highlight the following matters of concern.
75. During the course of his investigation, the Commissioner has encountered considerable delay on account of the Home Office's reluctance to meet the timescales for response set out in his letters. The delays were such that the Commissioner found it necessary to issue an Information Notice in order to obtain details relevant to his investigation.
76. Accordingly, the Commissioner does not consider the Home Office's approach to this case to be particularly co-operative, or within the spirit of the Act. As such he will be monitoring the authority's future engagement with the ICO and would expect to see improvements in this regard.
Download the OCR / edited text of FOIA Decision Notice FS50198733 as a Rich text Format document.